Governor Ron DeSantis recently appointed Lourdes Sancerni to be a judge of compensation claims in Orlando, Florida. Along with other judges, she will preside over workers’ compensation claims brought in Orange, Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties. Judge Sancerni was admitted to the Florida Bar in April 2003, following her graduation from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in December 2002. She received her undergraduate degree from Florida International University. Immediately prior to her appointment, Judge Sancerni was an attorney, focusing her practice on workers’ compensation law in North and Central Florida.
Governor Ron DeSantis recently appointed Jill Jacobs to be a judge of compensation claims in Orlando, Florida. Along with other judges, she will preside over workers’ compensation claims brought in Orange, Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties. Judge Jacobs was admitted to the Florida Bar in October 1987, following her graduation from the University of Miami School of Law. She received her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University in 1983. Besides working as a private attorney, she also served as the deputy city attorney for Palm Bay, Florida, immediately prior to her appointment. Judge Jacobs is board-certified in workers’ compensation law, and is a member of the Judge William Wieland American Inns of Court.
Governor Ron DeSantis recently appointed Barbara Case to be a judge of compensation claims in West Palm Beach, Florida. Along with other judges, she will preside over workers’ compensation claims brought in Palm Beach, Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties. Judge Case was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2001, following her graduation from St. Thomas University College of Law in 2000. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida in 1997. While in private practice, Judge Case served on the Florida Workers’ Compensation Rules Advisory Committee, and was named a Super Lawyer in the area of workers’ compensation.
It is an honor to be writing this message and beginning a year of service to all of you. Looking back, I was invited to begin my journey to becoming chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Never would I have imagined that the topic of COVID would need to be addressed in my first chair’s messageletter, years later. Quite frankly, I am tired of talking about it, as I know you are too! But, we have been left in a very different world. The price of everything has significantly increased. There is a shortage of labor. We now live in Zoom land, personally and professionally.
Which brings me to my point. It is so easy to blame COVID. Everyone does it. COVID has become an excuse for being lazy. I am guilty. And, I am not just talking about wearing your pj PJ bottoms with a suit jacket for a Zoom hearing. Again … guilty. I am talking about how COVID has affected the respect that we show for each other, each other’s clients, the bench, and the legal system as a whole. Unfortunately, I have heard from several JCC’s and some circuit judges that there is a lack of professionalism in the Bar as a whole. This is not isolated to one area of the state, one side of the Bar, or one practice area, but rather has been spoken about all of us. Some of the stories are amusing, but some are not. I guess the point is, COVID has had an impact on our practice, and we need to be cognizant of that and overcome the perception that has arisen. We all started in this profession because of a respect for the law. Has COVID taken that from us?
With all of that said, we are fortunate that our section and practice area have fared so well. We have continued litigation with little to no delay, thanks to the vision of Deputy Chief Judge Langham and his team at the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. Thanks to the persistence of Jim McConnaughhay, Steve Rissman, and company, the WCI Educational Conference returned in December 2021, and we are getting ready to get back on track in August 2022. I really love their “Brighter Days” theme. The Forum was held in April 2022, and drew in record numbers, thanks to Leo Garcia, Mark Touby, and the Forum committee. The Trial Advocacy Workshop returned in May 2022. We are welcoming a new DOAH chief judge, Judge Brian Newman, and are looking forward to his fresh perspective and leadership
On a personal note, I lost a friend and mentor this past year in Judge Robert Dietz. Judge Dietz was a great story tellerstoryteller, and loved a good joke, even if he was the brunt of the punchline. He worked tirelessly for any cause he believed in. It is very fitting that the last part of his career was as a judge, as he truly believed in and respected the law. He was notorious at our firm for asking the “interview question.” Taking a page from Judge Dietz, I challenge us all to ask ourselves the ultimate interview question, “Why do I love the law?” I have no doubt if we listen to our answer, we will continue to overcome our challenges .